- Charter of Transdisciplinarity

          ɡ

 

Special Issues

   - The Book Shop

The Golden Register -

 

Useful Sites

F.A.Q.

Index

 

 Maaberuna

english arabic

The Spirit in Man - 2

THE SPIRIT IN MAN - 1

 

S. Radhakrishnan

 

I. PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION IN INDIA

In the history of thought the problem of philosophy is approached in two different ways. There are some who take up particular groups of phenomena for investigation and leave the links to take care of themselves. Others view the world as a whole and seek to give general syntheses which comprehend the vast variety of the universe. The two ways of approach cannot be sharply separated. The universe is an interrelated changing process. When we study its parts, by separating out in thought certain aspects, we cannot help raising the question of the nature of the universe as a whole and mans place in it. In India philosophy has been interpreted as an enquiry into the nature of man, his origin and destiny. It is not a mere putting together or an assemblage of the results obtained by the investigation of different specialised problems, not a mere logical generalisation intended to satisfy the demand for all-inclusiveness. Such abstract views will have formal coherence, if any, and little organic relationship with the concrete problems of life. To the Indian mind, philosophy is essentially practical, dealing as it does with the fundamental anxieties of human beings, which are more insistent than abstract speculations. We are not contemplating the world from outside but are in it.

The practical bearing of philosophy on life became my central interest from the time I took up the study of the subject. My training in philosophy which began in the years 1905 to 1909 in the Madras Christian College, with its atmosphere of Christian thought, aspiration and endeavour, led me to take a special interest in the religious implications of metaphysics. I was strongly persuaded of the inefficiency of the Hindu religion to which I attributed the political downfall of India. The criticisms levelled against the Hindu religion were of a twofold character. It is intellectually incoherent and ethically unsound. The theoretical foundations as well as the practical fruits of the religion were challenged. I remember the cold sense of reality, the depressing feeling of defeat that crept over me, as a causal relation between the anæmic Hindu religion and our political failure forced itself on my mind during those years. What is wrong with Hindu religion? How can we make it somewhat more relevant to the intellectual climate and social environment of our time? Such were the questions which roused my interest.

Religion expresses itself in and discloses its quality by the morality which it demands. While there is a good deal in Hindu religion and practice which merits just criticism, dark aspects of brutality, cruelty, violence, ignorance of nature, superstition and fear, in its essence the religion seemed to me to be quite sound. Its followers are carried along by a longing for the vision of God which has brought some of them to the verge of a holy perfection in which the perplexing dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit which men for ever feel but never understand is overcome. Hindu culture is directed towards that which is transcendent and beyond. Its great achievements in times past were due to a high tension of the spirit to which our age has no parallel. The purpose of religion is spiritual awakening and those who are awakened are delivered from base delusions of caste and creed, of wealth and power.

There is, however, a tragic divergence between this exalted ideal and the actual life. In the first place in our anxiety to have no temporal possessions and spend our days in communion with spirit, the essential duty of service to man has been neglected. Religion may start with the individual but it must end in a fellowship. The essential interpenetration of God and the world, ideals and facts, is the cardinal principle of Hinduism and it requires us to bring salvation to the world. In the great days, the burning religious spirit expressed itself in a secular culture and a well-established civilisation. The religious soul returned from the contemplation of ultimate reality to the care of practical life. This fact is illustrated in the lives of the great teachers like Buddha and Śamkara who shared in the social and civilising function of religion. Hinduism strove victoriously against the corruption of the ancient world, civilised backward people, transformed and purified the new elements and preserved the tradition of the spiritual and the profane sciences. Proceeding on the assumption that all are of the same divine essence and therefore of equal worth and entitled to the same fundamental rights, Hinduism vet hesitated to take the bold steps essential for realising this end. Exalted ideals propounded by the founders of a religion meet with obstacles imposed by social inertia and corporate selfishness and those imbued with its true spirit must get back to the ideals and by effort and example break down the obstacles. Secondly, the kingdom of spirit is an elusive thing where one is deceived by shams and illusions. There are sinister people in every land who practise a kind of sorcery and bewitch the uneducated emotional into a sort of magic sleep. Much harm is done by spiritualistic and necromantic practices in which spirit and sense, religion and the powerful seductions of life get confused. It is essential to liberate not only bodies from starvation but also minds from slavery. Saintliness, when genuine, is marked by true humility and love. Religion is a search for truth and peace, not power and plenty. Thirdly, in the name of religion we are often taught that the prevailing conditions are ordained by God. Thus it had been, was now and ever would be. Rightly interpreted, religion means courage and adventure, not resignation and fatalism. The customs and institutions of a community in which moral obligations are ingrained require to be reformulated in a dynamic social order. As these give their moral education to the members comprising a community, they should not lag far behind the conscience of the community. There is such a thing as the degeneration of accepted ideas. Many of them are kept going artificially, even after life has left them. The contemplative thinkers who transmit to their generation the delicacy of old forms, reverence for the past, the breath of history, the power to feel and understand the secure and the self-contained as well as the visions of new things and vistas of a transformed age, men who know how to look upon tradition as something fluid and mobile, constantly modified and changed by the demands of life, are not among those who belong to the priestly profession today. The present class of priests, with rare exceptions have lost their good breeding, kindliness and polish and have not gained in sureness of intellect, learning or adaptability! They know only that the discipline of tradition erects a barrier against radicalism and excessive individualism. They think that they are safeguarding the community against revolutionary change but are only fomenting it. If we pull off their masks, doubters stand revealed in many cases. They are not sure of what they preach and are mere opportunists by reason of a dumb gnawing despair whose nature they themselves do not understand. They are to some extent responsible for the prevalent spiritual sluggishness. They thrust formulas into our heads which we repeat mechanically, without any real knowledge of what they mean. A few ceremonies are observed more out of regard for our reputation or our relatives or as a matter of habit than out of any inward urge or sense of community. We are Hindus simply because of the legal framework of life and the individual feeling of security within which we live and have our being. Many of us have not the slightest idea of the true nature of religion, that hidden flame, which is more active among the young whose minds are in ferment. We can hear the call and the challenge of the youth for a new emphasis in religion, a new mankind. It is of the spirit of youth that it can never entirely despair of human nature. It will debase itself rather than cease to believe in its dream visions. It is convinced that the affliction that is visited on us is the return for our common failure.

Our present political condition is the sign of an inward crisis, a loss of faith, a weakening of our moral fibre. Events happen in the mind of man before they are made manifest in the course of history. It is essential for us to get back to the old spirit which requires us to overcome the passions of greed and avarice, to free ourselves from the tyranny of a dark past, from the oppression by spectres and ghosts, from the reign of falsehood and deceit. If we do not undertake this task, the sufferings of our day would he without meaning and justification.

II. THE NEED FOR A SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

A veritable renewal is what the world and not merely India stands in need of. To those who have lost their anchorage, to our age itself which is in a great transition, the way of the spirit is the only hope.

The present chaos in the world can be traced directly to the chaos in our minds. There is division in mans soul. We assume that the intellectual and the moral exhaust the nature of man and that the world can be rebuilt on the basis of scientific or secular humanism. Man tears himself from the religious centre, discovers his own powers and possibilities and through their impetuous play tries to create a new society. The modern intellectual whose mind has been moulded to a degree seldom recognised by the method and concepts of modern science, has great faith in verifiable facts and tangible results. Whatever cannot be measured and calculated is unreal. Whispers that conic from the secret depths of the soul are rejected as unscientific fancies. Since men began to think, there have always been sceptics. The wise man, said Arcesilaus, should withhold his assent from all opinions and should suspend his judgment. This admirable attitude for the scientific investigator is now turned to one of dogmatic denial which offers but an inadequate guide to life and action.

What are these seemingly indisputable facts on which the new world is to be built? Human life is an infinitesimal speck on a tiny planet, in a system of planets revolving round an insignificant star, itself lost in a wilderness of other stars. Life is an accident arising in some unknown fashion from inert matter. It is wholly explicable, though not yet explained by mechanical laws. It has assumed various forms through the operation of chance (variation and environment). Even the mind of man is a chance product evolved to help man to overcome in the struggle for existence. The world of nature is indifferent to mans dreams and desires. Many strange creatures, products of millions of years of evolution, have passed away and man need not be so presumptuous as to think that he alone is fated to go on for all time. He is but an episode in terrestrial evolution and his existence on earth will come to an end.

The science of anthropology tells us how relative all moral systems are, especially those relating to sexual life. To the intellectuals who were in any case gradually shaking off the traditional moral restraints and rehabilitating the rights of the flesh, Freud, without intending in the least such a result, made licence respectable. The science of psychoanalysis is said to justify the consecration of all desires and a complete liberation from all restraints.

Social groups are formed in the interests of survival. They have no other purpose than furthering their own material good, by force and fraud, if necessary. Economic welfare is the end of all existence. The principles of evolution offer a scientific basis for militaristic imperialism. When powerful groups exploit the weaker races of the earth, they are but instruments for furthering the evolution of higher biological forms which has brought us from amoeba to man and will now complete the journey from Neanderthal man to the scientific barbarians of the modern world. The great powers constitute themselves into Gods policemen for preserving law and order in all parts of the globe, into missionaries for civilizing the weaker races, who arc treated as creatures of a lower order, annoying intruders with a different mental cast and moral constitution. The Jews are not the only people who called themselves the Chosen Race. Others also have faith in their mission, though this faith is based not on revelation but on historic or legendary destiny. To fulfil their destinies nations are converted into military machines and human beings are made into tools. The leaders are not content with governing mens bodies; they must subjugate their minds. They must transmit faith in their messianic mission to the community at large. Without much effort they gain the goodwill of the decadent and the discontented, the poor and the unemployed, the adventurous and the opportunist and the young and the eager who have neither ideal nor guiding star but only erring minds and quivering hearts. The seeds of rampant nationalism find fertile soil in the unpledged allegiance of emancipated minds. An abnormal state of moral and mental tension results where free thinking is replaced by dull obedience, moral development by moral quietism, feeling of humanity by arrogance and self-righteousness.

Religion needs certainty, complete assurance, but this is just the quality which scientific naturalism has pretty thoroughly discredited. Our need to believe, we are told, cannot be a sufficient foundation for faith. Religion, as a matter of history, has crippled the free flight of intelligence and stifled glad devotion to human values. It has fostered superstition and prescribed crime. It has comforted millions of suffering humanity with illusions of extraterrestrial solace to compensate for the barrenness of their earthly lives. Religion is only a species of poetry (Santayana), mythology (Croce), sociological phenomenon (Durkheim), or a narcotic for a decadent society (Lenin). Spiritual life is a deception and a dream. At best we can use religion as a code of ethics. It can be reduced to a few rules of morality. When Kant defined religion as the knowledge of our duties as divine commands and made God not a present help but a future judge rewarding the good amid punishing the wicked, lie very nearly ousted God from human life. In his Religion within the Limits of Reason, Kant views moral life as a life of individual self-determination in which neither God nor man can assist but in which each individual must carry on his separate struggle by his own unaided strength. Such a view leaves little room for anything like true religious worship or for the investment of life with purpose. The men of talent, without any binding ties or true affinities, disastrously isolated, thrown entirely on their own resources, their own solitary egos, with no foothold either in heaven or on earth, but completely uprooted are the free men who have emerged from the narrow frames of creeds and sects, from the fear of popes and priests; these are the ideal heroes, the beacons for all the ages. Each man is a prophet and the result is a regular Tower of Babel where no one understands the other. Each of them understands in his own way his own ideal for the world. Confusion of tongues in the Tower will and must end in catastrophe.

This may well be called the age of criticism, said Kant, a criticism from which nothing need hope to escape. When religion seeks to shelter itself behind its sanctity, and law behind its majesty, they justly awaken suspicion against themselves and lose all claim to the sincere respect which reason yields only to that which has been able to hear the test of its free and open scrutiny. But what has criticism achieved? It has banished absolute truth from thought and life. In aesthetics, beauty is treated as subjective, in jurisprudence, law is declared to be an expression of social convention, not of justice. In morality a full and varied life is said to be inconsistent with a rigid moral code. Even theologians have dropped the Absolute and taken to finite, self-educating gods.

What is the result of this new positivist criticism on life? We have a world of rationalist prophets, of selfish individualists, of a monstrous economic system compounded out of industrialism and capitalism, of vast technical achievements and external conquests, of continual craving for creature comforts and love of luxury, of unbridled and endless covetousness in public life, of dictatorships of blood and brutality, anxious to make the world a shambles dripping with human blood, of atheism and disdain for the soul, a world in which nothing is certain and men have lost assurance. In the great cities in the East as well as in the West we meet with young men, cold and cynical, with a swagger and a soldierly bearing, energetic and determined to get on, waiting for a chance to get into a place in the front rank, men who esteem themselves masters of life and makers of the future, who think, as Byron said, they lead the world because they go to bed late. Their self-assertive, off-hand manner, their vulgarity and violence, their confident insolence and cocksureness, their debasing of the law and derisive disregard of justice show the utter demoralisation through which the world is passing. They are not merely the thin crust of the social pyramid. They lead and control the masses who in the new demnocracies are gifted with a capacity for reading which is out of all proportion to their capacity for thinking. Life has become a carnival or a large circus in progress, without structure, without law, without rhythm.

Let us look closer for the other side to the picture. The denial of the divine in man has resulted in a sickness of soul. To suspend our will and thought and drift whither we do not know is not satisfying. Man can never be at rest, even if his physical needs are amply met. Bitterness will continue to disturb his mind and spoil his peace. Nature cannot be completely tamed to do mans bidding. Her caprices, her storms and tempests, her cyclones and earthquakes, will continue to shatter his work and dash his hopes. The great human relationships cannot be easily freed from interference by pride and jealousy, selfishness and disloyalty. Fortunes vagaries and the fickleness of man will continue to operate. Peace of mind is a remote hope until and unless we have a vision of perfection, a glimpse of eternity to prevail against the perspective of time. Security without which no happiness is possible cannot come from the mastery of things. Mastery of self is the essential prerequisite.

The world is passing through a period of uncertainty, of wordless longing. It wants to get out of its present mood of spiritual chaos, moral aimlessness and intellectual vagrancy. Burdened and tired to death by his loneliness, man is ready to lean on any kind of authority, if it only saves him from hopeless isolation and the wild search for peace. The perils of spiritual questioning are taking us to the opposite extreme of revivals and fundamentalism in religion. These are only halfway houses to a radical reconstruction of the mind. The uncertainty between dogmatic faith and blatant unbelief is due to the non-existence of a philosophic tradition or habit of mind. The mental suffering of the thinking, when the great inheritance of mankind is concealed by the first views of science, the suffering which is due to the conflict between the old and the new values, which are both accepted, though without reconciliation, is the sign that no upheaval, no crude passion can put out the light of spirit in man. However dense the surrounding darkness may be, the light will shine though that darkness may not comprehend it. Only when the life of spirit transfigures and irradiates the life of man from within will it be possible for him to renew the face of the earth. The need of the world today is for a religion of the spirit, which will give a purpose to life, which will not demand any evasion or ambiguity, which will reconcile the ideal and the real, the poetry and the prose of life, which will speak to the profound realities of our nature and satisfy the whole of our being, our critical intelligence and our active desire.

III. INTUITION AND INTELLECT

My attempt to answer the question stated in the previous section is largely influenced by the thought of Plato and Śamkara. They are not concerned so much with particular religious dogmas as with the central problem of religion. Today, our trouble is not so much with the infallibility of the Pope or the inerrancy of the Bible, not even with whether Christ or Krishna is God or whether there is a revelation. All these problems have changed their meaning and are dependent on the one and only problem, whether there is or is not behind the phenomena of nature and the drama of history an unseen spiritual power, whether the universe is meaningful or meaningless, whether it is God or chance. Plato and Śamkara anneal to me for the other reason that they are masters in the art of tempering the rigour of their argument with that larger utterance which is the soul of true literature. Writers on philosophy sometimes require to he reminded of Landors warning: Clear writers like fountains do not seem as deep as they are: the turbid look most profound.

Hindu systems of thought believe in the power of the human mind to lead us to all truth. Our ordinary mind is not the highest possible order of the human mind. It can rise to a level almost inconceivable to us. Each system prescribes a discipline or a practical way of reaching the higher consciousness. Faith in the ultimate values which characterises the philosopher in Platos Dialogues, as distinct from the pseudo-philosopher or the sceptical sophist, is not a matter of dialectics or sophistry but of spiritual awareness.

The idealist tradition both in the East and the West has asserted the supremacy of spirit in man. Mere physical desire and passion, impulse and instinct, even intellect and will do not exhaust his nature. The spiritual status is the essential dignity of man and the origin of his freedom. It is the state anterior to the divisions between intellect, feeling and will, where consciousness forms a unity which cannot be analysed. It is the presupposition, the limit and the goal of our divided consciousness. When the spirit, which is the mind in its integrity, is at work, man has the immediate intuition of his unity with the eternal, though, in the derived intellectual consciousness, he remains apart and works into the grounds of his own being and discerns his relation to and dependence upon the presence behind the trembling veil of phenomena.

This essential truth is expressed in the language of religion as the indwelling of the Logos. There is the image of God in man; an almost deathless longing for all that is great and divine. The values of the human soul are not earth-bound but belong to the eternal world to which man can rise through discipline and disinterestedness, lie can transcend the old law of brute creation which gives the race to the swift and the battle to the strong and accept the principle that lie that saves his life shall lose it. When, in response to the imperative voice of conscience, he renounces everything amid dies, he touches infinitude, lays hold on the eternal order and shares his kinship with the divine. At the centre of the soul there is a something, a spark so akin to God that it is one with God, and not merely united to Him (Eckhart).

Spiritual apprehension or the kind of awareness of real values which are neither objects in space and time nor universals of thought is called intuition. There is the controlling power of reality in intuitive apprehension quite as much as in perceptual acts or reflective thought. The objects of intuition are recognised and not created by us. They are not produced by the act of apprehension itself.

Ours is an age which is justly proud of its rationalism and enlightenment. But any sound rationalism will recognise the need for intuition. St. Thomas observes: The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively. The ultimate truth which is the criterion by which we measure all other relative truths is only to be experienced, not to be demonstrated.[1] Descartes, though a thorough-going rationalist and admirer of the geometrical method, uses the intuitive principle. While he employs the process of doubt to free the mind from error and prejudice and insists that we should accept only what presents itself to the mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all grounds of doubt, he finds what is clear and distinct in his knowledge of himself as a thinking being. It alone is beyond all doubt, self-evident, dependent upon nothing else. Descartes distinguishes perception, imagination and syllogistic reasoning from intuition which he defines as the undoubting conception of an unclouded and attentive mind, and springs from the light or reason alone. It is more certain than deduction itself in that it is simpler. While the truths intuition grasps are self-evident, training, or what Descartes calls method, is necessary to direct our mental vision to the right objects so that our mind can behold the objects. In so far as our minds are not creative of reality but only receptive of it, we must get into contact with reality, outward by perception, inward by intuition, amid by means of intellect interpret and understand it. Logical proof is not self-complete. Certain a priori principles constitute limits to it. We are not referring to the psychological a priori. The temporal priority in an individual mind may be traced to social tradition or race memory but there are certain propositions which are presupposed in experience which can be neither proved nor disproved. These unproved first principles arc known by intuition. Thus we have a sense of the organic wholeness of things while intellectual knowledge is abstract and symbolic. And again, the higher the reality the less adequate is our knowledge of it. Analytical intellect cannot give us a full understanding to the ecstasy of love or the beauty of holiness.

It is unfortunate that insistence on intuition is often confused with anti-intellectualism. Intuition which ignores intellect is useless. The two are not only not incompatible but also vitally united. Plato is the classic on this question. He says in the Symposium (211) that we know the essence of beauty in a supreme beatific vision, which is, as it were, the consummation of the philosophers searching enquiry. Similarly in the Republic (vii and viii) we are told that the world of forms is apprehended by us through the exercise of reason, though Plato is quite clear that it is not through mere reason. Intuition is beyond reason, though not against reason.[2] As it is the response of the whole man to reality, it involves the activity of reason also. The truths of intuition are led up to by the work of the understanding and can be translated into the language of understanding, though they are clearly intelligible only to those who already in some measure have immediate apprehension of them. Intuition is not independent but emphatically dependent upon thought and is immanent in the very nature of our thinking. It is dynamically continuous with thought and pierces through the conceptual context of knowledge to the living reality under it. It is the result of a long and arduous process of study and analysis and is therefore higher than the discursive process from which it issues and on which it supervenes.

Intuition is not used as an apology for doctrines which either could not or would not be justified on intellectual grounds. It is not shadowy sentiment or pathological fancy fit for cranks and lancing dervishes. It stands to intellect as a whole to a part, as the creative source of thought to the created categories which work more or less automatically. Logical reflection is a special function within the concrete life of mind and is necessarily a fraction of the larger experience. If it sets itself up as constitutive of the whole life of mind, it becomes, in Kants words, a faculty of illusion. The different energies of the human soul are not cut off from one another by any impassable barriers. They flow into each other, modify, support and control each other. The Sanskrit expression samyagdarśana or integral insight, brings out how far away it is from occult visions, trance and ecstasy.

Simply because the deliverances of intuition appear incontestable to the seer or happen to be shared by many, it does not follow that they are true. Subjective certitude, whose validity consists in mere inability to doubt, is different from logical certainty. The sense of assurance is present, even when the object is imaginary and even such objects, so long as they are believed to be actual, evoke feelings and attitudes quite as intense and effective as those excited by real ones. While religion may be satisfied with the sense of convincedness, which is enough to foster spiritual life, philosophy is interested in finding out whether the object believed is well grounded or not.

Intuition requires cultivation quite as much as the powers of observation and thought. We can realise the potentialities of spirit only by a process of moral ascesis which gradually shapes the soul into harmony with the invisible realities. Plotinus tells us that the path to the goal is long and arduous, traversing first the field of civic virtues, then the discipline of purification and then the contemplation which leads to illumination. Indian thought requires us to abstract from sense life and discursive thinking in order to surrender to the deepest self where we get into immediate contact with reality. To know better, we must become different, our thoughts and feelings must be deeply harmonised. Intuition is not only perfect knowledge but also perfect living. The consecration of the self and the knowledge of reality grow together. The fully real can be known only by one who is himself fully real.

IV. ART AND MORALITY

What we need today in our life is a breath from the spirit of another and a more abiding world. We must recapture the intuitive powers that have been allowed to go astray in the stress I life. Our contemporary civilisation with its specialisms and mechanical triumphs knows a large number of facts but not the mystery of the world in which these facts are. Other disciplines than exact sciences are requiredart and literature, philosophy ad religionto quicken the perceptions of wonder and surprise, strangeness and beauty, of the mystery and miraculousness I the world that surrounds us, if only we could see with eyes which are not dulled by use and wont. Science can dissolve the physical world into electrons and bombard the atom hut cannot account for the genius who can do all these things, for the noble human countenance, for the expression of its eyes and the Elections that shine through them. Man has the roots of his being struck deep into the nature of reality. On this bedrock are all his creative activities firmly based.

A great writer on aesthetics, Theodor Lipps, regards artistic intuition as an act of Einfhlung, which has been translated as empathy on the analogy of sympathy. If sympathy means feeling with, empathy means feeling into. When we contemplate an object, we project ourselves into it, and feel its inward rhythm. All production is an attempt at reproduction, at an approach to things seen and heard and felt. If a work of art fails, it is generally due to its lack of empathy. In a Sanskrit drama Mālavikāgnimitra (ii. 2), where the picture fails to bring out the beauty of the original, the failure is attributed to imperfect concentration (śithilasamādhi) of the painter. The mind concentrates on the material, becomes thoroughly possessed by it, gets it were fused into it, absorbs it, and remoulds it according to s own ideals and thus creates a work of art. This act of pure contemplation is possible only for perfectly free minds which ok at the objects with utter humility and reverence. This freedom is as rare as that purity of heart which is the condition seeing God. It is a state in which all our energies are heightened, tautened and sublimated. We draw or paint, not with our brains but with our whole blood and being.

Art is the utterance of life. It is the expression of the souls vision and is not wholly rational. It oversteps the limits of the rational and has, in Bacons phrase, something strange in its proportion. The artists attitude to the universe is more one of acceptance than of understanding. He sees the burden of mystery in all things, though he does not shudder in fear of it. He tries to pluck the mystery out of the thing, and present it to us. This, he is able to do, not by means of his reason, but by a riper reason, his intuitive power, which is the nexus, the connecting link, between the appearance and the reality, the flesh and the spirit. Until we have the inevitable fusion of the divine and the temporal, the subtle interpenetration of the spirit through the whole man, we will not have the quiet fire that burns, the lightning flash of vision that illuminates the darkness of the earth and the virgin apprehensions that take away the sting from the pains of mortality. All great artists, who have the subtle, spiritual appeal, convey a stillness, a remoteness, a sense of the beyond, the far away.

In my Hibbert Lectures on An Idealist View of Life, I complained that many of our best writers are too intellectual and did not attain to the heights of real greatness. They touch the mind but do not enter the soul. For great art, what is needed is inspiration and not intellectual power, what the Indian poet Daņdin calls natural genius (naisargikī pratibhā). Great art is possible only in those rare moments when the artist is transplanted out of himself and does better than his best in obedience to the dictates of a daimon such as Socrates used to say whispered wisdom into his ears. In those highest moments, the masters of human expression feel within themselves a spark of the divine fire and seem to think and feel as if God were in them and they were revealing fragments of the secret plan of the universe. Matthew Arnold said that, when Wordsworth and Byron were really inspired, Nature took the pen from their hands and wrote for them. In other words, they are activities of the pure spirit, manifestations of the human consciousness, at its highest, purified by detachment and disinterestedness. Some of our best writers skim the surface, look on it, examine it but do not take the plunge. That is why they do not feed, refresh and renew the spirit. Their works are not works of art but exercises in ingenuity. They have intellectual power, technical skill but not that rare adequacy of mind which engenders strange values from another world, through the perfect arrangement of a few colours on the canvas or a few lines of poetry.

But, let it not be forgotten that the true work of art is charged with thought. It is not the expression of mere emotion. A good deal of system and symmetry, of reflective determinateness is involved in the unfolding of the artists experience. A Beethoven symphony or a Shakespeare play has one indivisible inspiration but its expression involves elaborate labour on the intellectual plane. This labour is the effort of man to create its embodiment.

As consistent thinking is not creative thinking, as intellectual verse is not inspired poetry, in conduct respectability is not righteousness. Mere correctitude of behaviour is not the last word of morality. It may be conventional good form but it is not creative good life. The moral hero is not content with being merely moral. When Socrates refused to escape from prison, he did not behave like the conventional good man of his age who would have wriggled out at the first chance. Jesus behaviour before Pilate is not motived by prudential morality. Common sense and worldly wisdom tell us that if a doorway opens for a man who is in prison, he is a fool if he does not make use of it. Holiness is however different from vulgar prudence. It is an inner grace of nature by which the spirit purifies itself of worldly passions arid appetites and dwells in patient, confident communion with the universal spirit. Those who have this chastity of mind and spirit which lies at the very heart and is the parent of all other good see at once what is good and hold to that and for its sake humble themselves even unto death. Well-being, comfort, luxury, all these things which mean so much to the common run of men, leave them indifferent, if they are not felt as burdensome hindrances to the heroic life of creative love. This is true not only of the well-known sages of India and Greece, the prophets of Israel and the saints of Christendom, but also of the many obscure heroes of the moral life who go below the precise formulas and get at the social aspirations from which they arise and lead humanity forward.

Most of us are slaves of impulse and emotion, habit and automatism. We are not normally aware of the large influence of automatic thinking, of mental habit and the great hold which our past experience has on our present outlook and decisions. Human nature has in it the tendency to set or harden into fixities of habit. There are habits not only of the body but also of the intellect and the feelings. Anything strange or uncommon appears to be immoral, for it is contrary to the routine habits which are settledwhat we may call the social conscience. We live or try to live by a code which we have not examined but have accepted without adequate consideration. We eat and drink, play and work, attend to business and adopt hobbies not because we have chosen these activities for ourselves but because the environment in which we grew up indicates them for us. We accord to society what it expects from us, fulfil the duties which our station assigns to us. This is passive acquiescence, not active creation. We do not live our lives but in a sense are lived by our conditions. But this cannot go on for long, unless we surrender our thought and will and reduce ourselves to the level of automata. Our little understood urges from within, our likes and dislikes, our passions of greed and ambition soon produce conflicts. Society makes large demands on our life and adaptation to them is not always easy. Sometimes, we may feel that we are acting as traitors to humanity, by obeying the rules which our narrow group imposes on us. Often, personal relationships happen to be unfulfilled. Life, that sphinx with a human face and the body of a brute, asks us new questions every hour. The backward or those who are still children in the game of life allow their activities to be governed by automatic attractions and repulsions but their activities are by no means free. To hold the balance between instinctive desires and cravings and social obligations is the task of the moral life. Only when man attains unity, when he has discovered his whole nature and ordered it, has he the right to say I will. His free decisions seem then to come of themselves and develop of their own accord, though they may be contrary to his interests and inclinations. They infringe on the ordinary routine of life and bring into it a new type of power. These creative decisions cannot be foreseen, though they may be accounted for in retrospect. Though they defy anticipation, they are thoroughly rational. There is a wide gulf between mechanical repetition and free creation, between the morality of rules and the life of spirit...  (to follow)

*** *** ***

The Spirit in Man - 2


[1]Summa Theol., q. 46, n. 2.

[2] Cp. Burnet: To anyone who has tried to live in sympathy with the Greek philosophers, the suggestion that they were intellectualists must seem ludicrous. On the contrary, Greek philosophy is based on the faith

that reality is divine and that the one thing needful is for the soul, which is akin to the divine, to enter into communion with it.Greek Philosophy, vol. i, Thales to Plato, p. 12. This is certainly true of Plato.

 

 

 

Front Page

 

                              

Spiritual Traditions

 

Mythology

 

Perennial Ethics

 

Spotlights

 

Epistemology

 

Alternative Medicine

 

Deep Ecology

Depth Psychology

Nonviolence & Resistance

 

Literature

 

Books & Readings

 

Art

 

On the Lookout

The Sycamore Center

 

: 3312257 - 11 - 963

: . .: 5866 - /

maaber@scs-net.org  :

  :        ӡ ߡ ɡ